The UK Home Office’s decision to backtrack on the suspension of the Tier 1 Investor Visas, also known as golden visas, for new applicants is “no way to run an immigration policy”, according to the head of immigration at law firm Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth.
The Home Office announced it was suspending Tier 1 Investor visas on 6 December, effective from midnight that day, as it looked to make changes to the scheme.
However, the government department has reportedly confirmed that it has gone back on its suspension of the Tier 1 Investor visa, creating “uncertainty” for those applying to come to the UK and “potentially jeopardising” millions of pounds of investment.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We remain committed to reforming the route. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
Philip Barth, partner and head of immigration at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, said: “This is no way to run an immigration policy, effectively trying to legislate by press release.
“Not only are there significant amounts of money involved – the minimum requirement for a Tier 1 Investor visa’s investment in the UK is £2m ($2.5m, €2.21m) – but there are real, hardworking people who are already in the process of applying to come to the UK. They have done nothing wrong and yet are being treated like they have.
“There were eyebrows raised when the change of policy was hastily announced through a press release with no prior consultation with immigration law practitioners and no formal Home Office notice, and to have backtracked so quickly shows that much more care needs to be taken with this kind of policy.
“Some of our team were working through the night for our clients because of this suspension, working to a deadline that did not in fact exist.
“Hopefully now the government will take the appropriate time and care on the design and implementation of its future investor visa policies, particularly at such a fraught time politically and globally when we should be encouraging investment into the UK.”
Rose Carey, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, added:“It is disappointing that yet again we are in a position where the Home Office is being forced to backtrack on an announcement made in haste.
“The situation put investors in a panicked state, attempting to bring forward their applications before the suspension was implemented.
“It’s not the message the government should be sending to business, particularly at a time when the UK is trying to encourage investment.”
Criticism of scheme
When originally announcing the scheme’s suspension, immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the government would not tolerate people who “seek to abuse the system”.
The Home Office has now said that, from next year, independent, regulated auditors will assess applicants’ financial and business interests and check they have had control of the funds for at least two years.
Global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley and Partners told International Adviser that due diligence on UK Tier 1 Investor applicants should be “improved and enhanced”.
IA also reported that the European Commission is “extremely concerned” about member states offering citizenship to rich investors as they are seen as a potential “security threat”.
The visa has been available to those with access to at least £2m to invest in the UK. It’s open to those from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland.